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‘Freedom’ magazine is back after a six-month absence, and it arrived with a surprise!

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We started hearing from readers in late April that a new issue of Scientology’s propaganda magazine, Freedom, had appeared. One of our readers even sent us scans of the new issue (and thank you very much!).

But for some reason, the Freedom website was unchanged, and it stayed that way — until yesterday.

Finally, for the first time since September, Freedom has a new issue online. We keep an eye on Freedom for several reasons, not the least of which are personal ones.

Freedom has been through big changes in the last few years, which we always find intriguing. The publication went through a significant rebirth in 2013, with former Tampa Weekly Planet editor John Sugg hired to run a Florida edition of the magazine out of Clearwater, and one of Sugg’s former Weekly Planet staff writers, Jennifer Lankheim, hired to edit Freedom‘s flagship international edition out of Los Angeles.

They brought in several staff writers and freelancers, and for more than a year they put out a sober and earnest monthly glossy that took on the important issues of the day. Sure, there were brief flashes of the older, attack-dog Freedom, particularly in some of the media pieces by writer Dan Luzadder. (Dan once told us he was going to prove to the world that Lawrence Wright did no research for his epic Scientology history, Going Clear. Good luck with that, Dan.)

Meanwhile, at its website, Freedom shared space with Scientology’s really over-the-top attacks on Alex Gibney’s documentary based on Wright’s book. You probably managed to see some of the videos that not only targeted Gibney, but also some of the people who appear in the film, including Mike Rinder and Sara Goldberg.

Then, after the September 2015 issue, the print publication went dark and its website stopped adding updates without any explanation.

Was Scientology leader David Miscavige giving up on his new experiment of an earnest Freedom magazine? Was it returning to its goofier “Posse of Lunatics” days?

Well, now we have only a partial answer, and even more questions.

The new issue is dated “April/May,” which suggests that the publication is coming back at only six times a year. As for its content, it’s the same earnest hand-wringing over current events, in this case one of Scientology’s pet issues, drug abuse. It’s somehow even more dull than it was when it was coming out monthly last year.

We checked the masthead right away, and got a bit of a surprise. Here’s the entire staff list…

Executive Editor
John F. Sugg

Associate Editor/News
Bruce Leonard

Associate Editor/Investigations
Dan Luzadder

Associate Editor/Features
Ajay Singh

Sugg has apparently been promoted. But what happened to Lankheim? Is that what the six-month lag was about? Did she get the boot?

(We sent her a message to her Facebook page when the print issue came out in April, but we haven’t received a reply.)

On occasion, we hear from John Sugg’s former readers in the Atlanta and Tampa areas who are mystified that the former fiery alternative weekly editor is now taking a paycheck from Scientology. But there’s a new wrinkle we just learned about that we thought we’d share with you.

Recently, we appeared on Georgia Public Broadcasting for a segment about Atlanta’s new Ideal Org. We had a very fun conversation with Celeste Headlee, and we covered a number of different topics that are very familiar to our readers. Here’s the segment, if you haven’t heard it…

 

 
Anyway, John Sugg blew a gasket over what we had to say, and he emailed numerous people at GPB’s staff with a litany of complaints about your proprietor. It was rather unhinged. The folks at GPB kindly asked us for a response, and Headlee put together a short update. What caught our attention, however, was that she described Sugg as “a Scientologist.”

Oh really?

We thought Sugg’s former fans would be interested to hear that. It’s one thing for an out-of-work journalist to get so desperate that he would take Scientology money, but to become a Scientologist? Wow.

Hey, come to think of it, is that Scientology’s biggest recruiting win in the last decade or so? The dwindling organization hasn’t been able to attract any new Hollywood talent, and the list of big-name defectors is a constant parade of woe.

But hey, Scientology got John Sugg! He should give an interview about that, right?

 
UPDATE: John P and others have suggested that GPB mistakenly called Sugg a Scientologist. After all, your proprietor has been mistakenly called an “ex-Scientologist” by some news organizations.

So which is it, Sugg? Please drop us a line and we’ll be happy to add your thoughts to this post. Are you on the Bridge or not?

2nd UPDATE: On second thought, we think we were right to begin with. Here’s proof from Scientology’s own publications.

 
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Bonus items from our tipsters

Another youngster completes the Student Hat, this time in Las Vegas!

 
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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on May 11, 2016 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield

 

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